Everything’s a Perfect Treat Down on Jollity Farm

Songs the Bonzo Dog Band Taught Us – This is a collection of old songs that the Bonzos either covered or were generally inspired by. They showed a lot of English music hall influence, and that’s mostly what’s here. Unfortunately, the CD I got, the one sold on Amazon, doesn’t include the liner notes; I’m not sure why. There are also some typos in the song list, and the artists aren’t identified. Oh, well. At least I can find most of the information online or one the liners to other Bonzo albums. Since songs from the era were often performed somewhat differently by different artists, some of these include lyrics that weren’t in the Bonzos’ versions, or vice versa. I find that the laid-back vocals on many of the Bonzos’ recordings help to accentuate the ridiculousness of the songs themselves, but to be fair, that style wasn’t really possible with the recording techniques of the twenties and thirties. “Jollity Farm” was associated so closely with the band that it was the title of a book about them, but it was a cover, and sort of a parody, or at least a humorous follow-up, in the first place. Leslie Sarony performed a song called “Misery Farm” in 1929, then wrote and sang “Jollity” as sort of a counter to it. Both of the original songs are featured here. I haven’t been able to find much information on “Mickey’s Son and Daughter,” originally performed by the BBC Dance Orchestra. The lyrics are really kind of odd, since I don’t think Mickey and Minnie Mouse ever canonically had any children, and while it does mention Donald Duck and Pluto, I don’t think the other animals referenced were actual Disney characters. For that matter, why would the non-anthropomorphic dog be the one to throw the party? It’s certainly a fun song regardless, and the liner notes for Gorilla suggest that one of the reasons the Bonzos covered it was that it was a silly, jolly song recorded so soon before the advent of World War II. The version of “Button Up Your Overcoat” here is by famous British jazz bandleader Jack Hylton and his orchestra (as are several other tracks), but the best-known take on the song was by Helen Kane, the inspiration for Betty Boop.

“By a Waterfall” isn’t really a novelty like the others, but it was used in a lot of Looney Tunes cartoons. It was originally from the movie Footlight Parade with elaborate water-based choreography by Busby Berkeley. “We’ll All Go Riding on a Rainbow,” written by Harry Woods and performed by Jay Wilbur, is one of the ones the Bonzos didn’t cover, but it’s an excellent representation of the peppy music of the early thirties. And two other songs are about articles of clothing, somewhat of an obsession for the Bonzos themselves with such numbers as “Shirt” and “Trouser Press.” I was also interested to find out that the songwriter for “Ali Baba’s Camel,” Noel Gay, also wrote “Leaning on a Lamp-post.” I do find the repeated raspberry sound on “Everything Is Fresh Today,” by Raspberry King Jack Hodges, to be kind of irritating, but you can’t win ’em all. When I looked for that song on Google, it came up with this video of Spike Milligan lip-syncing…um, lip-raspberrying to it.

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